Nashville Doula Service’s very own, Jessica Caldwell, shares the birth stories of her six children which includes the birth of her twins, her multiple VBACs, and home births.
Before we get into her story, listen to these wise words from Jessica as she answers the question: What does it mean to you to birth on purpose?
“To me, to birth on purpose means to set an intention for delivery. What is most important to you? What message do you want echoed back to you from your care provider? From your support team? For me it was peace. Safety. Knowing my team trusted the process of birth and what my body could do. I made a plan, prepared for plan B and plan C, and then let go once labor began. As mothers all we can do is trust the process of motherhood, coming through us and in us. I wanted to know that in the darkest moments of my labour and delivery, that the people I had chosen to be there could speak words of life to me, guide me and counsel me through to the other side, with my intentions in mind. That kind of support is what creates empowered mothers, regardless of what the labor may bring.” – Jessica
We found out we were expecting twins on our one year wedding anniversary. I was 20 weeks along, and ended up in the ER on a Sunday, due to crampy contractions. After some IV fluids, a routine ultrasound gave us a very unexpected surprise, two healthy babies. I had been raised around birth all my life. I attended my 5 sibling’s births, and the home births of some of my mother’s friends, and those experiences had impacted me profoundly. But as a first time mother I was nervous, and I allowed myself to buy into the high-risk label my obstetrician put on me. I felt that I had hired the best OB in the area and that he would know what was best for my babies and I. I told my OB that I wanted to try for a vaginal birth, and he assured me that if I made it to 35 weeks and both babies were head down, we could discuss it. I ended up going into preterm labor at 27 weeks, and went on full time bed rest until our boys were born, just shy of 35 weeks. We had been in the hospital all night, like so many times before, trying to get the contractions to stop. My OB came in the room around 4 in the morning, sat by the bed and said “Well, we’re gonna have babies today!” I was shocked and excited. He told that the babies clearly wanted to be born, and they weren’t going to stop my labor any more. I reminded him about wanting a vaginal birth and I remember this part so clearly. He reached up and put his hand on my leg and said “I would really hate for you to have to recover both ways. Chances are once baby A is born, baby B will flip around, and we would then have to do a cesarean to deliver him. I really don’t want you to have to heal from both a vaginal birth and a cesarean. Besides, labor will be hard on the babies and I don’t want to stress them any more than needed. So let’s just do the cesarean.” I was fully trusting of his decision, but was by no means informed about what lay ahead of me. I was 4 cm dilated when they wheeled me back to the operating room.
Our boys were born two minutes apart, first Avery (4lb 8oz) and then Ezra (5lbs 10oz). I remember laying there with my arms velcroed to the table, and feeling like I might not be breathing because I couldn’t feel the rise and fall of my chest. Everyone was staring over the blue curtain and I was certain that if I died or went unconscious, no one would know. The only way I knew I had become a mother was because I heard my husband say, “Oh hey buddy! I’m your dad!” as each baby was born. And I remember watching my husband, so much emotion and expression on his face, trying to imagine what he was seeing. He was so happy, and I felt so scared and distant from it all. I remember hearing their sweet cries and that brought me relief, and then they were whisked off to the NICU, and by husband with them.
They moved me to my recovery room once the surgery was over, and then time just sort of stopped. I wanted so badly to see by babies. I asked one of the nurses when I would get to see them, and she told me very firmly that my babies were “very very sick” and needed to in with the special care nursery, and that the best thing I could do for them was recover. I had not been told anything about my babies being sick, so this rattled me. Another nurse came in and assured me that my babies were indeed healthy and fine, but just needed monitoring and help maintaining their body temps. I didn’t get to hold them until they were 2 days old. I pumped a lot of colostrum for them. My mom had a good firm talk with the nurses and demanded they let me nurse the boys. That was day 4, and I’m grateful that my mom helped me see that sometimes mamas need to speak up and fight for their babies. I too had been a 34-week preemie, so my mom had lots of helpful advice about breastfeeding. She really was my cheerleader through that and I’m grateful. We spent a good long week in the hospital and then we all went home. I recovered rather quickly from my cesarean, and felt lucky about that since I had two babies to care for. It wasn’t until a couple weeks after, once everyone left town and I was alone to care for my babies that I started to feel like something wasn’t right. I struggled a lot with my feelings. I didn’t know why I felt how I did because I had never been a mom before, so I had nothing to compare it to, but I just felt like maybe, just maybe, these babies could be someone else’s and I wouldn’t know it. Like I was playing a part. It took a long time before I could admit that to anyone, because I really was happy, but I was overwhelmed and isolated. Breastfeeding became our way of bonding, we worked hard together, the three of us, and it empowered me a great deal. I was determined to nurse my twins and overcome all the obstacles we faced. It was hard earned but I was able to nurse them for a full year, until I was 4 months pregnant with our third son.